Jill Tracey Interview
Listener Engagement Director / Morning Co-Host
Career Capsule: I started in Christian radio in 1995 (yep…you guessed it: I am at least 25 years old). My first job was doing Middays and Promotions at WCIC in Peoria, IL which led to a stint as co-host to the awesome Chuck Pryor during the Morning Show. Then I moved to Charlotte, NC to do Mornings and Promotions at WRCM at the end of 1998. (Shout out to my New Life co-hosts Joe Paulo, Jon Ramer, and Gary Morland. In 2004, I returned to WCIC along with my new husband (Jeremy Tracey) and did Middays, then co-hosted Afternoons with Jeremy. In 2012, we moved to the a.m. and ‘Mornings with the Traceys’ was born. In the summer of 2019 we took Mornings with the Traceys to 100.7 KGBI in Omaha, NE. I also serve as Listener Engagement Director at KGBI. I also worked for several years as radio consultant and coach for Lysa TerKeurst, Sharon Jaynes, and Renee Swope at Proverbs 31 Ministries (where I was also their radio feature promoter for a brief time) and Jill Savage with Hearts at Home.
Jill, tell us what’s new at KGBI … news, changes, & new with YOU… etc?
Pretty much everything is new at KGBI, really. As a turned-back-to-listener-supported-under-new-ownership station in the fall of 2018, we’ve been building since then under the inspiring leadership of station manager Suzanne Happs. It’s super exciting to see God building something brand new in the Heartland. The latest things we’ve done include raising nearly $6700 in gift cards for patients at Children’s Hospital in Omaha over the holidays and we’ve started off 2021 with our “HOPE Burns Bright” campaign. We’re sharing listener Hope Stories and giving gifts that will help hope burn bright like music, Bible note-taking journals, Austin French’s book about hope after heartache called “God Can,” etc.
How has your job/show changed during the pandemic?
It’s really been about finding ways to connect with “Jenny” as much as possible in light of our current reality. Instead of having sticker stops in the summer, listeners requested stickers online and posted selfies with them on their vehicles to be entered to win an end of summer staycation. In the fall we invited folks to enter to win a KGBI goodie bag delivered to their door by the Morning Show team. So, the fun and connection has continued, we’ve just been looking for ways to keep that relationship strong even during the mandates. We’ve also done more Facebook Lives and check-ins. And, service projects have continued either online through Amazon Wishlist drives or in-person safely.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
The best: Don’t filter your husband. Let him be himself and don’t worry about him offending people with his jokes. Jeremy is funny and sometimes says outrageous things, but he has a kind heart and people can tell the difference between him being funny and being serious. Once I stopped worrying and allowed him to just be him, our show went to a whole new level.
The worst: Hmm…that’s tough. I think it was that there should always be conflict to make your show compelling. Over the years I’ve learned that on-air hosts can agree and still be compelling. Maybe it’s just finding different angles. Of course, when we do really disagree we can have fun with that. But, if the different opinions are contrived, it’s not authentic. One time, years ago, I was compelled to tell people that their proposal stories were cheesy so I would have a different opinion from the host. I ended that show feeling like I had been completely disingenuous (their stories were very sweet) and a little snarky. Not who I am at all – at least I hope not.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?
Sure! I mean, I don’t think it helps anyone to have more stations simply for the sake of more stations. But a little competition never hurts, especially if it helps spur me on to do my very best every morning to serve the listener.
What’s your opinion on podcasts… is it necessary to have one, are they a threat to radio… etc?
I love podcasts and I think if you can do one well and have a unique angle or just a really good way to share hope and encouragement through a podcast, DO IT! I’m thankful that as a new station with a very small staff, KGBI has a network (Northwestern Media) to rely on in this area for now. Meridith Foster tells God stories in the most compelling way on The Unfolding podcast and my friend Summer Shepherd is starting a great podcasts for moms. They are two of the best storytellers I know and I’m ecstatic that we get to offer their podcasts through the KGBI website and point to them on our social platforms. It is a true benefit to our listening family! And yay to Jason Rackow for being the mastermind of all things podcast-y for the network. A true artist, indeed! We’d love to see some in-house podcasting in the future when the resources are available.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
From everywhere! From our churches, colleges and universities, from our Moms groups and book clubs, from our connections in the media. When we find someone who has a heart for people and can connect on a deep level, we remember that. So many times this is the way we’ve found brand new peeps to bring on-air who are now touching lives every day or every weekend during their on-air shifts.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
I would say not connecting with the listener on a heart level. How is she going to feel loved if I’m not really being myself and caring for her? Also, for me personally, not spending time with God. When I’m not connected with Him I’m just going through the motions of trying to nail breaks and Facebook posts. If my heart is empty, so is my content. It may not be evident right away, but it will be. This is hard because there are so many ways to sound spiritual without truly spending the time. I struggle with this for sure.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
At the risk of sounding completely schmoopy…I must say my Jeremy Tracey. He is one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever known in this industry. His care with each day’s logs, music schedules, traffic, research, programming, and coaching is amazing. Lisa Williams – she truly loves EVERYONE and it impacts everything she does; Tracy Johnson, Dave Brooks, Jason Sharp, all the ones I’ve already mentioned in this interview, and many more. I know…but what can I say – we are in an Ah. Maze. Ing. industry! It’s an honor to call you all peers and colleagues, even if we’ve never met.